There have been a few games this season that have left fans baffled. Fingers are pointed, and almost always, towards Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb. It is natural for people to immediately look at the Head Coach and the Quarterback when teams are failing. While there is an argument that for a few of the Eagles losses we got beat on defense and our offensive line failed, McNabb’s performance plays a huge role and almost always sets the mood for the entire game.
One thing we’re sure most fans have noticed is that McNabb is inconsistent. Even further, when McNabb is good, he’s really good. More importantly, the rest of the team is really good. When he’s having an off day, the whole team feels it and performs poorly. Most likely one of the main contributors to this fact is that the Eagles are a pass heavy offense. So naturally, when our passer isn’t completing pass attempts, the offense lacks. When a team hardly runs the ball, the Quarterback becomes that much more important. The rest of the offensive squad relies on his performance in order to perform.
McNabb has played in six games so far this season. Look back at the first game of the season against Carolina – while our defense pretty much controlled this game, McNabb had a decent game as well. He had a passer rating of 80.6 which was his median rating of games played this season, but he had two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. His highest passer ratings were against Tampa Bay and the Giants, 157.2 and 146.7 respectively. He held a 91.4 passer rating against Washington. Now, if you look at two of our three losses this season, Oakland and Dallas, he had a 66.3 and 61.4 passer rating. Read the rest of the stats from those two games and you’ll see his performance greatly affects the performance of the rest of the team. Something should be mentioned regarding the run as well. It’s acceptable to blame poor performance of Wide Receivers on them not receiving complete passes from the Quarterback, but you’ll see that Shady McCoy, Westbrook and Weaver have all ran further and completed more first downs in games McNabb is playing well than when he’s not. It may not be as big of a factor, but it still plays a part. I think McNabb is more of a leader to this team than people realize. We have some tough games ahead and it’s important that McNabb gets back to playing at his full potential. The NFC is a touch conference this year and in order to have some playoff hopes, we need our star QB to play like the star he is.
Play calling plays a role as well. It makes no sense to have a couple of lost downs due to incomplete passes and then run for a few yards on third down and have to punt. While it’s nice to hope the first down can be reached, it seems a pass attempt would yield better results. Additionally, the fourth and inches play from the Dallas game keeps replaying in my head – forget the bad spot and the fact that McNabb got the first down – if you know everyone is going to automatically form a dog pile in the middle of the field, why not fake the quarterback sneak and hand the ball off to Leonard Weaver. I can almost bet that by the time anyone figured out where the ball was Weaver would be in the end zone celebrating solo.
One last thought as we head into San Diego – our defense is absolutely horrible when it comes to covering tight ends. We’re going against one of the elite tight ends in the league in Antonio Gates this weekend. If we can’t find a way to contain him, I have a feeling we’ll be in for another heartbreaker…